A Skateboarder’s Dream Come True

m/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/pearseandlizkerr-300×198.jpg” alt=”Pearse and Liz Kerr” width=”300″ height=”198″ /> Pearse and Liz Kerr at Friday’s dedication ceremony and groundbreaking of the new skateboard park.

It took 12 long years, but at last Patrick Kerr’s dream of a dedicated skateboard park has been realized.

Patrick, the son of Liz and Pearse Kerr and a student at Roman Catholic High School, was an avid skateboarder and a dedicated advocate for hassle-free places where he and his friends could pursue their passion. The city’s refusal to allow skateboarding in Love Park—a well-known mecca for devotees of the sport—drew him into the fray, and he never shied away from it.

In 2002, Patrick was skateboarding on a street in Jenkintown when he was hit by a tractor trailer, and killed. He was 15.

On a breezy, overcast Friday afternoon, Patrick’s parents joined dozens of skateboarders, friends, family, and local politicians to dedicate Paine’s Park, to be completed in the spring of 2013, and designed with skateboarders’ moves in mind. It’s a 2.5-acre parcel at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, in the shadow of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Liz Kerr, an early advocate for skateboarders since 2000, first as part of an ad hoc group called the Skaters’ Defense Lobby, and later on when she helped form a nonprofit activist group called Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund, was thrilled. She remembers how difficult it was at the time for skateboarders to get their point across.

“We would go to City Council meetings and lobby—first for Love Park, to let the kids be in Love Park,” she says. “That was when the restrictions were coming in, and kids were getting citations and being arrested. So we formed this lobby. And then, when there was no hope for Love Park to be open, it morphed more into, ‘OK, let’s get the next site.’”

And from those humble origins, Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund got its start.

Josh Nims, one of the founders of the Skaters’ Defense Lobby and, later, Franklin’s Paine, recalls well Liz Kerr’s early involvement with the cause.

“I’ve been with it longer than anybody else, but at the beginning I had a group of four people, including Liz, who were at the core of the initial push you need for a good idea,” Nims says. “She has a passion for justice and fairness in all things. She saw inequality in how skateboarders were being treated. She had a personal stake in it because of her family. She really jumped on board with me to advocate for the rights of skateboarders back in 2000.”

With Patrick’s death, Nims understood and admired Liz Kerr’s continued commitment to the cause.

“Everybody had their own stake in a thing like this. Her stake in it is big. She had something extremely tragic that she was willing to fight through, and continue to fight for something that must have been a constant reminder for her, and yet she stayed with it and continued to help any way she could. I consider her whole family wonderful personal friends that we made through this journey.”

Liz Kerr feels certain her son would have been pleased that all of his hard work is culminating in a primo spot for skateboarders.

“The location is beautiful. If you look in one direction, there’s the Art Museum,” she says. “If you look in the other direction, there’s the river. A little further down, the skyline. I don’t think you can find a more beautiful site than here. I’m so happy about that.”

Author: Jeff Meade

Jeff is one of the founding editors of irishphiladelphia.com. More details.

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